Students celebrate diversity, inclusion at Southwest’s first-ever second-chance prom

By Melissa N. Reyna, Instructor of English

The Nabors gym was transformed March 29 by LED lights, a rainbow balloon arch, and a live DJ. Stacks of Papa John’s pizza beckoned students, some of whom sat quietly on the bleachers while others danced. To the casual observer, this scene resembled any other prom, but it was quite special: this night marked the first Second-Chance Prom hosted at Southwest.

Second-Chance proms offer LGBTQ+ individuals the chance to bring their partners and express their gender authentically, all in an environment that is safer and more accepting than in high schools.

Well-known local drag queen Bella DuBalle poses with her partner, Luke Conner, and mother, Lynda Kyle, at Southwest’s Second-Chance Prom

Well-known local drag queen Bella DuBalle poses with her partner, Luke Conner, and mother, Lynda Kyle, at Southwest’s Second-Chance Prom.

Dustin Williams, faculty sponsor of Southwest Pride, first pitched the idea at a group meeting. “Everyone’s face lit up,” he said. “They were so excited. I knew we had to make it happen.”

Mathematics faculty Nikki Jackson says events like second-chance proms “promote diversity and make students feel welcome no matter their background or preferences.”

Julia Rhea, Mental Health Counselor, added, “it helps kids who feel so alone to form bonds and have experiences outside the typical academic environment.”

Nearly 100 students and allies took advantage of the opportunity. They enjoyed performances by drag queen Bella DuBalle and drag king Will Ryder and cheered on a runway competition to determine prom king and prom queen.

At the same time, OutMemphis employees offered free HIV testing and the Outflix Film Festival committee members promoted upcoming showings.

When asked why they came to the prom, several students replied they wanted to have fun while another referred to it as a “redemption prom.” They stressed the importance of hosting LGBTQ-friendly events at Southwest, not only to provide support for students who have experienced bullying, but also to help the larger college community come together.

Williams thanked the Southwest Diversity Committee and Vice President of Student Affairs Jacqueline Faulkner for sponsoring the prom. He hopes it becomes an annual event. “Second-chance Prom was a resounding success,” Williams said. “I am so proud of everyone who attended and made the night their own.”

For more information about Southwest Pride and how to support LGBTQ+ students, contact Dustin Williams at dwilliams67@southwest.tn.edu.